Climate innovation centre launches Sh778 million funding for SMEs in waste management

PS Environment Eng Festus Ng'eno, Nairobi County Chief Officer for Environment Ibrahim Otieno and NEMA Director General Mamo B. Mamo lead other dignitaries in the official launch of the SWIFT Programme at Nairobi Serena Hotel on February 15, 2024. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

Small and Medium Enterprises(SMEs) dealing in waste management stand a chance to win funding, among other benefits, to bring to life innovative business models that embrace circular economy principles.

 This is after IKEA Foundation gave Kenya Climate Innovation Centre (KCIC) USD5 million (Sh778 million) through the three-year Sustainable Waste Innovation for a Future in Transition (SWIFT) programme.

 Joseph Murabula, KCIC chief executive officer said they are looking for two transitions; green (around climate) and digital transition.

 “This is a very big milestone in our journey because we support five thematic areas including renewable energy, water, waste management, agribusiness and commercial forestry and now we have a standalone programme supporting waste management in this country and it could be the first time for such to support innovations around waste management,” said Murabula.

 He spoke during the launch of the programme at a Nairobi hotel.  

 He said they are looking for registered SMES that have innovative ideas around waste, that can help support them in terms of two development objectives; fight against climate change and poverty through entrepreneurship or the creation of jobs.

 Applications are open and SMEs have up to February 28 to apply.

 Apart from funding, Murabula said qualifying SMEs will also be supported through business advisory to become viable commercial enterprises, technical assistance and mentorship.

 He said the green economy sector as per research done by ANDE early last year called “Building the Green Economy: Trends and Opportunities for Green Entrepreneurship in Kenya,” for the next five years is about USD123 billion, while waste management and circular economy is USD54 billion thus more promising than agribusiness, renewable energy and other natural resource management sectors.

 “Through this programme, we are giving opportunities to small-scale entrepreneurs and businesses to maximise their potential. This is an opportunity that can create decent jobs and revenues and support other ecosystem players to also grow and therefore transform this sector from where it is now from unexploited and looked down as undignified and support growth of the economy,” he added.

 He said the funding will be a repayable grant that will not attract interest and different SMEs will receive varying amounts depending on their needs but the highest will receive about Sh5 million to even Sh100,000 for the lowest recipient.

 Murabula said funding is one of the current biggest challenges to investing in a circular economy because most financial systems in the country and most parts of the world do not understand waste management properly.

 “Two is that the business models are not well understood or developed and part of what we are doing here is get these and get these innovations and refine business models. Once that is done, we can have a conversation with financial institutions and tell them the certainty,” he said.

On the policy front, the SWIFT programme will strategically collaborate with the national government and five counties; Nairobi, Mombasa, Nakuru, Kisumu, and Uasin Gishu to support the development of policies and regulations to incentivise public and private sector engagement in sustainable waste management.

The programme ultimately targets generating over 6,000 direct and indirect jobs, improving the livelihoods of over 5,000 households, and seeing supported enterprises generate up to USD 10 million in revenue.

Speaking at the event, Eng. Festus Ngenoh, Principal Secretary for Environment and Climate Change underscored the need for a collaborative approach in addressing the challenge of waste management in the country.

“The launch of this programme presents a significant opportunity for Kenya to showcase its leadership in sustainable waste management on the global stage. Together, we can demonstrate that a cleaner, greener future is within our reach. Collectively, we can build a future where waste is not a burden but a valuable resource,” he said.

In his opening remarks, he said that the government is reviewing The Environmental Management and Coordination Act (EMCA), 1999 which will include the Solid Waste Management Act, 2022.

"We are going to make EMCA an overarching law under the environment and natural resources sector. After Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR), there will also extend consumer regulations extended consumer regulations coming on board so that everyone carries his or her responsibility," he said.

The PS estimates the country generates 3,000 to 4,000 tons per day and therefore the SWIFT programme will go a long way in transiting to a circular economy and green growth.

The SWIFT programme is aligned with both KCIC's mission and the IKEA Foundation's commitment to climate action and improving everyday life.

“We are proud to work with KCIC to create green jobs to enable people in Kenya to afford a better life for themselves and their families, but also to protect the planet in a meaningful way. Because we know for instance that waste and dumpsites contribute 20 per cent of methane emissions,” said Patrick Obonyo, IKEA Foundation’s Programme Manager.

“As a Foundation and only KCIC, we cannot solve the problem alone. We believe that the opportunity here is for everyone to be able to do something. We can either sit and complain or decide to act at an individual level to keep our environment clean. There’s also an opportunity for other donors and development partners to come in and support this programme, so we can collectively accelerate Kenya’s transition to a circular economy,” he added.

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